May 26, 2008

The Best Atari 2600 Games

I've been thinking a lot about the Atari 2600 VCS system lately - I guess it's a natural reaction to having finally played Guitar Hero III and Grand Theft Auto IV and also Mario Cart on the Wii. With all that flash and polish, I think fondly of the old school of video games. Old School being the time when you had to imagine the storyline or the graphics, because there just weren't any. But I knew that it would get better.

Even as a little kid, I knew that my home system was a pared down version of what was in the arcades - and some day, and some day soon, the quality in the arcade machines would filter down to the home version. I had the vision of the 'future of gaming' held with mighty high expectations for graphics, speed, and fun. I mean, as a child of the 70's, you could witness Moore's Law unfold in front of you. All you had to do was to visit the arcade and watch them wheel out an old Atari Night Driver for a brand new Sega Outrun.

(speaking of graphics - if your browser isn't seeing it, there are all kinds of pictures and videos included in this post. Hit refresh a couple times to see 'em - Cap'n)

Ironic that now that we're there - I'm looking back at the old stuff. That's nostalgia for ya... but I've always loved my Atari 2600. First some trivia. Atari Inc. was incorporated in California on June 27th, 1972. It's based on the Japanese 'ataru,' which roughly means "prepare to get your butt kicked."

What were the best games? There were only about 500 plus carts to pick from. Better question - How about, what were MY favorite games?

First, the Criteria for my favorites:
  1. Was it Fun? Then and now.
  2. Graphics - while you're thinking, "are you kidding it's the Atari 2600?" - it was/is a factor, especially when it was a port from a popular arcade title.
  3. Am I any good at it? Have I turned the Odometer? If you need a "point" in your Atari games -- it was to turn the score odometer over back to zero.
  4. What are the top five or ten that I pull out to play when I plug it into my television - then and now?
With that... Here's my list:

First, one of the all time best, and I doubt anyone can argue that this game meets all the four requirements. Fun, Graphics, I'm Awesome, and it's the top of the pile.

YARS REVENGE (1981) Atari

A little background. The creator of Yars Revenge was Howard Scott Warshaw. This crowning gem of the entire catalog was created by (ironically?) the same programmer who also coded ET. Granted, with ET he was thrown into a closet by management and was tasked to get 'something' finished in 6 weeks to get it to market in time for Christmas '82 - what's important to note about that story is that the creator of one of the Best games in the catalog also made the Worst.

And while it looks completely original - it's actually a 'port' or an ohmage to the vector arcade game Star Castle. There are three shields you have to get through, and there's a cannon in the center. Sounds kind of familiar, right?

What's with the name? What's a Yar? Warner replaced Atari's founder and leader Nolan Bushnell with Ray Kazar after many fights including Silicon Valley culture (casual days and hot tub dope parties, and also the future of the company including the 2600). The story goes that Ray was taking a tour of Atari and saw this game being tested. When asked what that "goofy" (paraphrasing, wasn't in the room) game was - Howard called it "Yar's Revenge... Ray spelled backward." It was immediately moved into production.

Atari even created a whole backstory about the Yars, and their home world Razak... yep, spell it backward again. There was a comic book included with it, and a record about the Yar's struggles against the Zorlon cannon.

Now, back to me. I ROCK on this game. I've gotten to the blue level and the black level - where there's no shield to the center - it's just a cannon. I'm fairly sure I've turned the score twice in one sitting. When you get really far into it, it gets really, really hard - and much more fun. An awesome, awesome game.

Next on my list: Pitfall! (1982) Activision

Created by David Crane, one of the four programmers who left Atari to found Activision. The discontent was realized once the four discovered on a memo that their work was directly responsible for millions of dollars in revenue for Atari. All the bosses were making huge bonuses and bringing trucks of money to Warner. The salary of the programmers? 20K. They went up to their managers for raises. Failing that, they wanted recognition for their work. Ray Kazar scoffed at the idea, likening a programmer to a janitor or a weaver in a textile factory. (Ray's previous experience was in textiles) Ray probably also realized that if he let his top programmers put their names on their carts, they would be poached by competitors. Not rival cart makers though. Those didn't exist... not yet.

Crane and Larry Kaplan, Alan Miller and Bob Whitehead joined with former music executive Jim Levy and founded Activision. Their take on video games was that creating game carts aren't a closed shop to just Atari. They were, in essence, creating the first third-party software company for consoles. Atari sued, for they just assumed that they had the exclusive right to program for their own hardware... and Atari lost. Great for cool companies like Activision - but they might not have realized the Pandora's box they had opened with their victory... as Activision would be the exception of quality and rock-stars in the 3rd Party cart business. Soon the market was littered with crappy video games. (Be looking for a follow up post, perhaps?)

Activision's other radical new approach to the video game business was to realize that the programmer was king. They were treated as rock stars, and the games were their albums. Trip Hawkins would also took this approach when he started EA in 1982. And where would Nintendo be without Shigeru Miyamoto san (宮本茂)?

Artist David Crane's Pet Sounds was Pitfall! - He had discovered how to create a running man effect. Where is the guy running? A jungle. Why? Money! A perfect Activision and 1980's allegory.

Graphically speaking, the game was a huge technical achievement for not flickering, multi colors, and movement. And who can ever forget the soundtrack... "Tarzan!"

Game play - you start with 3 Pitfall Harrys and 2000 pts. You touch a log, or fall into a pit (hence the name: pit-fall) you loose points. Money bags, Silver bars, gold bars and diamond rings are worth 2k, 3k 4k, 5k respectively. A perfect score, in 20:00 - all 32 treasures, no hazards: 114,000. Simple. Brilliant.

I think I got to 50K once. I probably took a Polaroid of it to get my patch. I never got the patch. I was probably 8.

My strategy? Run left, so that if you die, you fall past the thing that killed you. Sneaky, huh? I still remember the first time I came to the screen with the 3 gators without a vine. Absolute terror. It probably took an hour to figure out I could jump on the gator's heads to get across. Yeah, I was 8. And stupid. Okay?

Graphics, fun, pretty good at it, still fun, and on top of that pile.

Next up - Asteroids (1981) Atari

"You got Asteroids?"
"No but my dad does - he can't even sit on the toilet some days".

Asteroids fails in the graphics department but makes up for it in the fun department. And I've turned the odometer at least three times in a sitting - and before you judge that - it's because I had brought my trusty 2600 to college and the whole house used it to procrastinate studying for that damn Russian History final.

Luckily we were using our time wisely. As it turns out, our skills to to destroy Asteroids will some day be used as NASA calls us up defend our precious little planet from blue white and pink graphic blobs that explode into slightly smaller pixelated balls. Oh, and UFO's will try to stop us for somereason.

The original game - the arcade game - was conceived by Lyle Rains and programmed and designed by Ed Logg and inspired by the first video game - Space War! One of the original vector graphics games had little beta testing - which resulted in the creation of beta testing of video games before the product hit the market. Why? Because cheaters could take advantage of the bugs and hide in the score on one quarter! Or, you could also use a technique I like to call "Atari Physics" which allows you to hit that UFO from one corner of the screen, say, the lower left, aimed at 45 degrees and nail him in the upper right corner. Even with the flaws, the arcade version was Atari's biggest seller.

With that success came the home version. Like the arcade, the score only makes it up to 99,999 - with many roll over opportunities. However, the 2600 version was MUCH easier than it's quarter swallowing older brother.

The cart was cool because they packed in 66 versions on a theme - including shields (my fav) and hyperspace and one where you could flip the ship. They pulled this off by 'bank-switching' the cart which doubled its ROM space.

Soundtrack - notable for it's use of Jaws-ish do-do-do and increasing as the asteroids are blasted away. Good times. Better times? Slamming your thrust to full throttle and seeing how long you last without breaking any Asteroids with the hull of your ship. I think I've gone a whole minute on that one.

Now it's time for Missile Command (1980) Atari

Alright, let's pretend this isn't Global Thermal Nuclear War, or a Pentagon demonstration of the Star Wars Defense Initiative for just a second. I say that this is a practical political statement that shows young people the futility of nuclear war. Any attempts to defend against it is also futile. Everyone looses a nuclear war. Even with a track ball.

Okay, it's nuclear war, and when a giant CCCP 120K slips past your mis-timed nuclear detonation or a sneaky bomber warhead slips past the last missile in your arsenal and nukes your final standing city, the screen reads THE END. Not Game Over... THE END. Whoa!

I always had my imagination trained on which cities I was defending. I always had LA, Vegas, Denver - Cheyenne mountain base - then Chicago, DC, and NY. Yes, I know that Denver would come AFTER the mountains - it's just the way it worked. Look, if you're going to nit-pick me on that, then I'm going to tell you that in the TV show Jericho the pilot episode had mountains in Kansas and the folks could see Denver get nuked from Kansas. And in 24, the satellite lost the terrorists with the nuclear bomb, "Somewhere in the mountains between Iowa and Illinois." You're going to fail me in mountain Geography? Imagine my surprise that programmer Dave Theurer says the six cities were meant to represent six cities in California: Eureka, San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and San Diego. Hell, I might just drop a quarter in and walk away next time I see this machine... I digress.

Big hit in the arcades equals almost instant home game version - even if... it really... isn't? First off, they had to kid friendly nuclear war just a tad for somereason? The story in the instruction booklet tells of a war between two planets: Zardon (the defending player) and Krytol. I guess complete Armageddon is more palatable if it's somebody else's planet?

Anyhow, the Atari 2600 version tries hard, and even though there aren't giant floating satellites and Soviet Bombers releasing 3 headed warheads while you're busy taking out the intercontinental warheads - there are smart bombs. And they made the screens change color. I likened that to "later, that morning..." to "Nuclear winter begins... and the war continues."

Ah, the 80's.

Moving on. Demon Attack (1982) Imagic>

Now actually, if I were ranking these, Demon Attack would go higher. But since I was just talking about Missile Command - it goes here. Demon Attack was made by the same guy who made Missile Command. No, not Dave, but Rob Fulop. The home version. Rob was an Atari programmer who saw the Activision guys leave, and since Atari just lost their lawsuit - why not make his own video game company? What's interesting about this is that it's so much fun! I love blowin' up me some demons! It's also interesting that this is one of Imagic's only big hits. The second being Atlantis. Like Activision, they were also sued by Atari, but not over who had the right to publish on their hardware. They went after Demon Attack specifically because of its resemblance to Phoenix. And since Atari had just purchased the 'home version' rights from the arcade- they saw an opportunity to knock out their newest competitor. There was a settlement out of court - which I find ridiculous since there were 8o0 shooters out there with the exact same premise. Space ship - shoot alien/demon. Alien shoots back, and sometimes goes kamikaze on your ass. On that premise, Taito should have sued everyone for ripping off Space Invaders!

Anyhow - Demon Attack is fun. Good sound effects. Great graphics. I was a little pissed to see that Intellivision had a better graphics. That's one difference between Activision and Imagic - Imagic would take advantage of the other systems specs, whereas Activision created a uniform product between the competing consoles.

I liked version 5 of the game because you could hook your laser shot and ram it into the Demon from the side. After many, many hours of playing Demon Attack, I'd like to thank you Rob Fulop, where ever you are today.

Berzerk (1980) Stern Electronics

Berzerk is so bad ass, it actually KILLED people! In January 1981, 19-year-old Jeff Dailey died of a heart attack soon after posting a score of 16,660 on Berzerk.[1] In October of the following year, Peter Burkowski made the Berzerk top-ten list twice in fifteen minutes, just a few seconds before also dying of a heart attack at the age of 18. Now that is awesome. A game about robots trying to kill the humanoid - actually killed someone! No word if a Berzerk arcade is still searching for Sarah Connor.

Man, did I love this game. You know what? I still love this game! I even still love the 2600 version of this game. Well, not as much as the 5200 or the original arcade, but it's a solid port. One bummer is that, obviously, there's no talking Cylon robot voices, "Get the humanoid, get the intruder" or "Come back, chicken, fight like a robot!" And that was one of the coolest things, other than it's body count, was that it was a TALKING arcade game. Okay, sure Stratovox and Gorf! also talked, but this was Cylon robots that were mocking you and scaring you half to death. However, because digitization was so expensive in 1980, the sentences spoken by Berzerk shared a vocabulary of only 30 words. Upon hearing "Intruder Alert!" from a Cylon death machine you went into instant panic mode to avoid the Big Happy Fun Ball that was Mr. Evil Otto. Evil Otto - being an indestructable smiley face - was a big motivator in getting you out of that room full of robots.

Some history - this game dates far back to the point where it was going to be black and white, and they were going to put a color overlay on it, like the original Atari Breakout. In fact, you may not have realized how many arcade games were actually in black and white with color overlays - for instance - Atari's first actual color game was Centipede.

Also, I have read that Alan McNeil, had a dream about fighting robots and built a game on that dream. I've also read that Berzerk is loosely based on the novels of Fred Saberhagen's Berserker science fiction books. ("Evil Otto" was named one of Alan's hated coworkers.) Which makes me wonder why there were no lawsuits?

My strategy? Move your man from the left screen to the right. You can shoot over the electrified walls, and use the rest of the wall as a kind of shield. Walking into a room from the left gives you a minor advantage as the start a screen - as also easier to shoot to the right and run. Also, Otto is less likely to get you if you start left and run to the far right exit, rather than the North (top) or South (bottom) gates since he moves in a bounce motion that will catch your leg. I also will use the bug in the game where the robots are more interested in killing you than self preservation - and you can use Evil Otto to kill any remaining robots that you missed. These strategies work for the 2600 version too - and you only get bonus points if ALL the Berzerkers are dead before you leave a room.

Awesome game. Still love it. It killed 2 people.

River Raid (1982) Activision

Designed by Carol Shaw. You know how I know that? Because Activision was right! To this day I still know that this game was designed by Carol Shaw.

This game stole a lot of hours of my youth. I remember on one of my best games I had gotten pretty far up the River. It was only about a pixel wide that far up. I think I saw Colonel Kurtz's camp - but then I ran out of fuel. I also remember playing this game with my dad quite a bit, which was a good time. Father and son time in the '80's wasn't throwing around a ball - but blowing up some rouge country's bridges.

There are some major achievements in this classic - One, that Carol Shaw is a girl! That's right, Carol is the first female game designer. She designed 3d-Tic-Tac-Toe for Atari while working there, and split to Activision too. Carol is quoted on the internets, "Originally, the jet was going to be a boat, but the top part of the boat looked kind of funny so it became a jet. The 2600 itself was the biggest difficulty. It was originally designed for Tank and Pong and games like that. It had 128 bytes of RAM and 4K of ROM. I generated the landscape by a pseudo-random number generator. (Perhaps this is why the background never seems to be the same or repeat itself.) It's all in assembly language and we spent all of our time just squeezing the code down to fit the system."

And then there's the strategy - do I shoot the fuel for the points, or do I need the fuel? One of the more interesting points of the game are that fuel consumption is a part of the game play. Also - the scrolling feature, added with the randomness of the river add to the replay value.

The 5200 version is also very fun, and even more challenging. There's even tanks that fire into the river. Not so much at you, but repeatedly into a fixed position.

And further up the river you go, the more random the 'AI' of the bad guys and the fewer the fuel 'barges'. Guess that's why I remember dying for lack of gas. Another great allegory of the times.

Here's the ad - notice they mention Carol Shaw in the ad? That's cool.

Chopper Command (1982) Activision

Activision was on a roll in 1982. After Pitfall and RiverRaid, one of my all time favs was their Chopper Command. The sound effects of that gattling gun on the front end of your chopper was amazing. Several of Activision’s shooters boast a really cool laser effect for the player's shots. Chopper Command uses this effect too, with shots that start out a dark blue, then intensify to white as they fly further from your chopper.

The object of the game, protect your convoy as they move off the screen from Right to Left. It's a derivative of Defender, but not anywhere near as crappy.

It was programmed by Bob Whitehead.

While I'll admit this isn't THE best game in the library - it's a solid title that does come out when I want to play some Atari Today.

Empire Strikes Back (1982) Parker Bros.

Parker Brothers acquired the Star Wars license in 1982. Parker Brothers would release a total of four Star Wars games for the 2600. Empire was the first, and their best.

When it came out, the original movie was already five years old. The sequel, which had been out for only two years, was more recent kid's minds. My whole life was Empire - maybe because it was open ended, and left the imagination to wander how it was going to end. Would Han ever be freed from the Carbonite? Also, anticipation was building for the third film which was due out the next year.

The game is based the Rebel's attempt to stop the giant Imperial Walkers with small snowspeeders. The Ford Fiestas of the Star Wars universe. You are Luke as you fly a snowspeeder in a useless attempt to stop these Walkers. There isn't a generator - it's just stopping them from crossing the screen from Left to Right. Meanwhile, the Walkers fire lasers at you. You can take a maximum of five hits before being destroyed. Landing in a valley repairs your damage, but this can only be done twice per ship... Unless you get the FORCE. Walkers take 48 hits before being destroyed. Every eight hits they change color to let you know you actually hit them. Damaged Walkers slow down and fire less often and less accurately. Every so often a flashing square will appear on the Walker. This is a bomb hatch which allows you to destroy the Walker with a single shot.

The graphics are very simple, it's an abstract painting of the Battle of Hoth. The entire playfield is approximately eight television screens wide, and flying off one side brings you back on the other. There is a radar screen at the bottom of the playfield which shows the position of the Imperial Walkers relative to the power generator. Sound effects are also minimal, consisting of laser fire and the relentless "thump" of the Walkers' feet. The Star Wars theme plays if you can avoid being hit for two minutes - hence, the FORCE. While the theme plays, your snowspeeder is invicible. There are 32 game variations: 16 for one player and 16 for two players. The variations include four levels of difficulty, smart bombs fired by Walkers, and solid Walkers. That is, in normal game variations your ship can fly right over the body of the Walker you are trying to destroy. In the solid Walker variation, you can only fly through the legs. Hitting the Walker's body will destroy your ship-although it will also damage the Walker. The difficulty switches changes the size of the valley where you land for repairs.

The concept of the game is an insane cross between Defender and Space Invaders. As in Defender, you shoot enemies while flying on a horizontally-scrolling screen. Like Space Invaders, the enemies keep coming closer and closer until you are overwhelmed.

My Strategy: Do not destroy the lead Walker, but hit it until it is heavily damaged and extremely slow. This will slow down the progress of all the Walkers towards your generator. Then - this is important - do the same thing to the LAST Walker in the line - this slows down the reinforcements. Damage these first two Walkers in this fashion, then destroy the remaining three at your leisure. Wait until the last moment to destroy the lead Walker. If you keep the lead Walker damaged and destroy the ones behind it... you, uh, prolong the inevitable.

I mean, come on, you're facing the bloody Empire - a government that built two Death Stars. Sure it took 20 years to complete them both... but they're sure as hell going to keep throwing Imperial Walkers at you until Darth Vader is happy. Since that just isn't going to happen, you've got to give the folks on the transports enough time to check their luggage, get through security, go to the bathroom a couple times, get some dinner, check out the terminal one more time, then wait to board, then wait for the asshole in front of them to stow their Droid in the overhead compartment...

Like a big pile of my Atari games - there is no "end" (least not that I'm aware of on this one). It's just about playing for a while, having fun, turning the score to show your friends, maybe make a Polaroid of for proof - then turning off, maybe playing something else or going back outside to play in the real world. A great game - still.

Space Invaders (1978) Tatio/Midway/Atari

Space Invaders is the first "home game" or "port" of a video game from the arcades into your living room - I mean, other than PONG. There were 20 billion Home Pong machines put out in the late 70's - and there was a mini-video game crash in 1976 because of a flood of Atari rip-offs flooding the stores.

Actually, Space Invaders has an amazing and rich history to it. One of which, it saved the industry from that mini-crash, and caused a quarter shortage in Japan.

Game play and the arcade brought new innovations, at the time. And if you remember playing this in color at the Stuckies off the interstate - it's because there was a color overlay on the black and white monitor. The game was interesting because the baddies would speed up as fewer of them existed. It was actually a flaw in the code that was left in (for obvious financial reasons). The screen could refresh quicker, and therefore the remaining aliens moved quicker. Some bugs actually work out?

Second, the heartbeat soundtrack - that just worked to make this game a classic.

Third was the implementation of the high score. No, really that ought to be first actually. Prior to Space Invaders, arcade games didn't let you KEEP the score - I'm not talking about putting your initials, George Costanza - I'm talking about just leaving up the highest set of numbers that had been reached on one quarter. For the first time in Video Games, there was a point - a goal. And another note for you youngsters out there, way back - the games just timed out. There was no death by loosing men - it was just that your 1 minute was up. It's much more fun and rewarding to die trying than just getting timed out, no?

This thing was a smash. There were coin shortages in Japan because they were all being jammed into Space Invader cabinets and tabletops. Competition to get the high score was a major factor.

Then they invaded the States - and every 7-11 and snack shack and even grocery store had a Space Invader machine. It cannot be understated how this one machine influenced the entire industry. There was money to be made - one quarter at a time.

In the middle of all this was when Nolan Bushnell was having huge fights with his new overlords at Warner. Warner, in fact hardly anyone, knew how to handle upstart Silicon Valley - let alone the ex-hippies and casual day-layabouts at Atari. Bushnell left/forced out by Warner who didn't care for his back talk and crazy ideas about how to run the video game empire they just bought. Much of the fighting was to abandon the 2600 and focus on the 5200. Remember the timeline here - it's late 1978, early 1979 - Imagine if Nolan had stuck around and released the 5200 before Intellivision even came out? Well, he could too, that's why he fought so hard.

After Nolan left Warner brought in a man who's previous management was in textiles. Ray Kazar -- you'll remember from Yar's Revenge? Anyhow, he was in the plant - or so the story goes - and he saw some of his programmers playing a Space Invader machine. He looked around and said something to the effect of, "why the hell isn't that on the VCS?"
"It's not one of ours."
"Get a license for it then."

This turned out to be the most important decision the three piece wearing Kazar made while running Atari. The license was granted from Midway who had gotten the license from Tatio Japan. The cart SOLD Ataris! People went nuts for Space Invaders. Again, they went out and bought Atari's to play Space Invaders at home.

Also, the home license deal was brand new to the home market - sure Atari was porting their own games already - such as Steve Job's Breakout, Pong, Night Driver, et all. But this was the first officially licensed arcade game for home conversion from one company to another. And that opened up the idea they could make home versions of other company's popular arcade titles as well.

The Golden Age of the Atari 2600 started with that decision. But the lead in the pipes was that Nolan wanted to ditch it to move forward with the 5200. The biggest obstacle to his radical thinking? It was 1979. There was a recession on. Jimmy. And now Nolan expects folks to buy another, new, console. The consumers of the time had the same television, record player and toaster that they had bought at Sears - back in 1962. Replacing technology, especially expensive components (the 2600 was priced at $199.00 in 1976), was NOT something consumers were used to, nor receptive to. That's something that is lost on the history books - that feeling of "What? I need another video game system? I just bought that one 5 years ago!?" Life cycle and Moore's Law was not yet a part of the lexicon.

Other Honorable Mentions.

I also like Kaboom and Warlords - both are Paddle games. That means you have to unplug your joystick, and plug in your paddle controllers. Now that I think about this, I wonder why they didn't make Space Invaders a paddle game?

I hadn't mentioned them yet because I would only dig those games out if I bothered to hook in the paddle controllers. Yes, I'm that lazy.

Kaboom (1981) Activision

Kaboom! was a game designed by Larry Kaplan. It was originally going to be an Atari-produced port of their 1978 arcade game, Avalanche to the Atari 2600. Activision's game was another success for Activision, selling over one million cartridges by 1983.

Gameplay in Kaboom! consists of using a paddle controller to catch bombs dropped by the "Mad Bomber" with a set of three buckets. Points are scored for every bomb caught, extra buckets (maximum of three) are awarded at every 1,000 points, and one bucket is lost every time a bomb is missed. Bombs fall at increasingly higher speeds, making each of the seven higher levels more difficult.

The bomber makes a happy or sad face if you win or loose. It's just fun.

Warlords (1980) Atari

The game resembles a combination of Breakout and Quadrapong (an early Atari arcade game) in the sense that not only could up to 4 players play the game at the same time, but also the "forts" in the four corners of the screen were brick walls that could be broken with a flaming ball. Warlords used spinner controllers for player control, and came in both an upright 2 player version and a 4 player cocktail version. The upright version uses a black and white monitor, and reflects the game image onto a mirror, with a backdrop of castles, giving the game a 3D feel. The upright version only supports up to two simultaneous players, which move through the levels as a team.

The cocktail version is in color, and supported 1-4 players. 3-4 player games are free-for-alls, and the game would end as soon as one player wins. 1-2 player games play identical to the upright version. According to the Atari video game production numbers, 1014 uprights were made, and 1253 cocktails were produced. The prototype version of warlords was called "Castles and Kings" and was in housed in a 4 player "Sprint 4 like" cabinet - it was huge. Only 2 versions of the prototype were made. The game was considered a success, however the large cabinet made it impossible to produce in large quantities nor was it feasible to install - hence the smaller cocktail design.

The 2600 version of Warlords is often cited as one of the more popular Atari 2600 titles by classic video gamers, and was voted the 25th greatest video game in the 100th issue of Game Informer (Aug 2001 issue)

I like the version where you can catch the ball and toss it onto your little brother's castle.

"Only after you've experienced the sheer joy of slaughtering your best friend will you know the true meaning of fun." Nolan Bushnell

May 23, 2008

Pork and Beans

Every Internet Cliche in one video. Classic/typical Weezer.

There's the "Chocolate Rain" dude, and the "Leave Britney Alone" person, and that "Numa Numa dance" gentleman, all lip-syncing Rivers Cuomo's lyrics. And the home-brewed lightsaber duels and Mentos/dry-ice Coke bottle fountains simply add some razzle-dazzle. Even the ugly girl... oh, you'll ID all of 'em if you have ever read this site or

Too bad they're about a month late, 'cause South Park already did this with hilarious results.

Weezer's "Red Album" on sale June 3rd.

Unintentionally Funny

Memorial Day weekend is coming up - judging by how few comments we're getting around here at Blasphemes World HQ - (okay, fine, it's just a used Winnebago) you're all ready on vacation and on your third beer after having a margarita. I know, you like to mix it up on a three day weekend.

I was going to post some "remember the reason for the season" kind of what-have-yous and came across some pretty funny pictures - whether they were intended to be or not.

Feel free to throw your own captions into the comment bar in-between your trip to the grill from the keg.

On target - Take her out before they make Ghostbusters III!

Hey cool, an ant!
Wouldn't you know it, I'm all suited up and there's a pebble in my boot...

"[churk] Mustang, you are flying over restricted airspace... "

Ah, you guys can do better than that - post 'em.

Skeletor's Health

All the rage the last couple of days has been to beat up John McCain over his medical records. I have read that he'll allow journalists to look at them - but only briefly. What, is he going to wave them at them for just a second and say, "There they are, good bye..."

Then I read this:
Three-time melanoma survivor John McCain appears cancer-free, has a strong heart and is in otherwise general good health, according to eight years of medical records reviewed by The Associated Press... But Mayo internist Dr. John Eckstein, his longtime personal physician, lauded McCain's performance on a heart stress test - sweating it out for 10 minutes when Eckstein routinely sees patients decades younger quit at five or seven minutes. "I think physiologically he is considerably younger than his chronologic age based on his cardiovascular fitness," Eckstein said in an interview Thursday. "I got a call from the cardiologist who said that he had not seen anyone that age exercise for that long in a long time."
That's just great - he's in better shape than me. But he STILL can't raise his arms over his head!

And after all that - how come the pundits are going bonkers over "The Most Important Veep pick in HISTORY!?" (and that would be Tippecanoe and Tyler Too)

McCain has polyps in his colon, apparently the result of too much speaking from that part of his body. Otherwise, he's in pretty good health. Except the cancer


I love this company - I have no idea how they make money - but damn if their stuff doesn't make me laugh out loud. Here's to you... shameless plug. Keep up the good work.

May 22, 2008

Faith in the System

A BLASPHEMES FOLLOW UP: (with Added Emphasis so you can skim to get the gist of the story)

SAN ANGELO, Tex. - A Texas appeals court said Thursday that the state had no right to take more than 400 children from a polygamist sect's ranch, a ruling that could unravel one of the biggest child-custody cases in U.S. history.

The Third Court of Appeals in Austin ruled that the state offered "legally and factually insufficient" grounds for the "extreme" measure of removing all children from the ranch, from babies to teenagers.

The state never provided evidence that the children were in any immediate danger, the only grounds in Texas law for taking children from their parents without court approval, the appeals court said.

It also failed to show evidence that more than five of the teenage girls were being sexually abused, and never alleged any sexual or physical abuse against the other children, the court said.

It was not immediately clear whether the children scattered across foster facilities statewide might soon be reunited with parents. The ruling gave Texas District Judge Barbara Walther 10 days to vacate her custody order, and the state could appeal.

FLDS spokesman Rod Parker said sect members feel validated, having argued from the beginning that they were being persecuted for their beliefs.

Every child at the Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado was taken into state custody more than six weeks ago, after Child Protective Services officials argued that members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints pushed underage girls into marriage and sex and groomed boys to become adult perpetrators. Only a few dozen of the roughly 440 children seized are teenage girls; half were under 5.
WITH NO EVIDENCE! - my emphasis.

The appeals court said the state was wrong to consider the entire ranch as an individual household and that the state couldn't take all the children from a community on the notion that some parents in the community might be abusers.

The court said that although five girls had become pregnant at age 15 or 16, the state gave no evidence about the circumstances of the pregnancies. It noted that minors as young as 16 can wed in Texas with parental consent, and even younger children can marry if a court approves it.

Bottom Line: No matter how goofy you think a hairstyle is, taking those kids based on stereotypes, a phony phone call and the misconception that the State was going to do right - was totally wrong, and I hope that all the people involved are unemployed and counter sued for the trauma they put those kids through.

Let me reiterate a point when I brought this to you the first time - if there was ANY child abuse by the men - hang 'em by their privates. If the sect is collecting Welfare checks - you can go ahead and stop that with force. But to take the kids on no evidence? - just because you think the State has to 'save them' is exactly the kind of run away insane government that I've been trying to highlight here.

Now get those kids back to their mothers!

Obama Targeted

I know, we'll put Barak Obama on the cover of our magazine in a rifle's crosshairs, with the title "White Fright"... what could possibly go wrong?

Here's the story (linkage)

Cap'n: The Movie

Some of the shocking news revealed, according to IESB:

- The Captain America movie will be a WWII period piece [a shocker considering the character normally fights Nazis]

- Matthew McConnaghey is NOT in the running for the lead role, as previously reported by a smattering of numbskulls and various shit for brainses

- Additionally, /Film reports that the title will be

The First Avenger: Captain America

Looks like they're moving ahead with the Avenger idea - synergy.
Cap knocks Nazi skulls in... yeah, read into that fanboy.

Star Trek Special Edition

Star Trek: The Motion Picture (Pon Farr Edition) from Darth Mojo on Vimeo.

The special edition DVD of Star Trek: The Motion Picture has finally finished the movie. Director Robert Wise was so rushed to get the thing out the door he never felt like the movie was done, so finally, almost 25 years later, Paramount invited him to come back, pick up the pieces and make them all fit right. One “special feature” that was never going to make it on the DVD is presented here for the first time.

(ah, probably not safe for your workplace there, Sparky)

It just keeps going

For as God Like or R-Kelly like the painting suggests, our good friend Karl Rove wonders, why can't Obama just put Hillary away? This is a good question. Karl said in an interview, “The problems that Barack Obama has with working class voters are real, and they’re not going away. It’s cultural. They view him as an elitist — as somebody who’s condescending and doesn’t share their values.” Way to use established talking points... Hillary's talking points, I might add.

Also, in Rove’s opinion, “Obama should not have gone [back] to Iowa and said, ‘I’ve got a majority of the elected delegates.’ Let somebody else do that. He should have focused on substance, not try to say, ‘[look at me], I’m ahead.’”

The issue will ultimately be settled by the Democratic National Committee, when its Credentials Committee meets next Saturday to making a final ruling on the heated dispute.

Does Clinton have a chance at seating some of those delegates?

“She might have a chance with the committee,” Rove says, “because it’s set up in a certain way where she has a lot of friends on the committee.”

And then there's Florida and Michigan, which if seated, would put her behind by a mere 50. 50. If you wonder why she's not dropping out - that's it. She can still take this thing, by golly.

May 21, 2008

The Road

Cormack McCarthy's The Road will be directed by The Proposition helmer John Hillcoat and stars Viggo Mortensen as The Man as he travels through an ashen post-apocalyptic landscape with his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee). The Road hits limited theaters on November 11 and expands throughout November going wide on November 26.

Music Vest

Back in the year 1984, you had to take your chances on products that you saw on TV. Well, I guess you still might buy that Magic Bullet. If you actually sent away $34.95 for one of these Music Vests after seeing the commercial, however, you get no sympathy from me. Although it does look like a sweet accessory for hanging out. Unbelievably amazing video. Thanks to Gizmodo for finding it, and letting me cutn'dapast it for you nice people.

Who's DL are you on now?

Mike Piazza? He's on NO ONE'S DL right now - as he's "decided" to retire...

I read this story and figured out that what really happened is that no one wanted him.

After 16 years and 427 Homers, that's it.

"After discussing my options with my wife, family and agent, I felt it was time to start a new chapter in my life,” Piazza, 39, said in a statement. He added: “I knew this day was coming, and over the last two years, I started to make my peace with it. I gave it my all, and left everything on the field.”

His wife - Alicia Rickter? Yeah, that's her on the left. You wouldn't have read this otherwise.

Bye Mike.

Fun Game

Damn! I could do that all night. Anyway to superimpose someone else's face in there?

Rethink Green

WIRED magazine has done some math. They've actually weighed the issues of global warming/climate change (or whatever we're calling it this week) and puts the smack down on the green movement for not doing the same.

For instance - not embracing Nuclear power as a carbon-free alternative to the massive black coal plants that dot the American landscape. Using Frank-n-food (genetically altered food crops) that will use less fertilizer, space, and ultimately energy to reduce carbon, and also to feed the people of the earth. What's a little strange mutation vs feeding people? Maybe a third eye is what we, as humans, need?

Wired's top 10 GREEN HERESIES

Live in Cities:
Urban Living Is Kinder to the Planet Than the Suburban Lifestyle

A/C Is OK:
Air-Conditioning Actually Emits Less C02 Than Heating

Organics Are Not the Answer:
Surprise! Conventional Agriculture Can Be Easier on the Planet

Farm the Forests:
Old-Growth Forests Can Actually Contribute to Global Warming

China Is the Solution:
The People's Republic Leads the Way in Alternative-Energy Hardware

Accept Genetic Engineering:
Superefficient Frankencrops Could Put a Real Dent in Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Carbon Trading Doesn't Work:
Carbon Credits Were a Great Idea, But the Benefits Are Illusory

Embrace Nuclear Power:
Face It. Nukes Are the Most Climate-Friendly Industrial-Scale Form of Energy

Used Cars — Not Hybrids:
Don't Buy That New Prius! Test-Drive a Used Car Instead. Building and disposing a Prius creates much more carbon and nickel waste than that damned H2.

Prepare for the Worst:
Climate Change Is Inevitable. Get Used to It - You're still going to die.

May 20, 2008

Ted Still Not Dead...

Duper Tuesday

Another week, another split primary contest, right?

Hilldog is poised to "win" Kentucky (hmm... should she have had some fried chicken there?)

While Obama is favored to win in Oregon, where opinion polls give him a lead between 4 percentage points and double-digits. The two states have a combined 103 delegates at stake on Tuesday. But that doesn't matter - because...

Obama is going to drink Hillary's milkshake - tonight!

While Obama will probably still be about 50 to 75 delegates short of the 2,026 needed to win the nomination, he has decided this high water mark will send more undecided superdelegates flooding his way. (see I can write for the AP...)

"A clear majority of elected delegates will send an unmistakable message -- the people have spoken and they are ready for change," Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said in an e-mail message to supporters.

So tonight, in Iowa - and he's going to declare that he's beaten Hillary Clinton in the contest.

Be looking for that, it ought to be funny. I wonder if Hillary will get to have a rebuttal, the same way they have a Democrat speak after the State of the Union address? Now that'd be even funnier!

May 19, 2008

Weekend Movies

Blasphemes Update to Weekend Summer Movies:

Just how bad is "Speed Racer" doing? In two weeks of release, it's made $4 million less than "Harold & Kumar: Escape From Guantanamo Bay."

"Iron Man" settled into second place as early reports say that, "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" is this weekend's champ. Mild Christian entertainment wins. "Narnia" took in an estimated $56.6 million nationwide.

"Iron Man" isn't rusted out yet. In the third week of release Tony Stark has brought in $31.2 million.

Rounding out the top ten this week were:
"What Happens In Vegas," Fox, $13.9 million this weekend, $40.3 million over two weeks.

"Speed Racer," Warner Bros., $7.6 million this weekend, $29.8 million over two weeks.

"Baby Mama," Universal, $4.6 million this weekend, $47.3 million over four weeks.

"Made of Honor," Sony/Columbia, $4.5 million this weekend, $33.7 million over three weeks.

"Forgetting Sarah Marshall," Universal, $2.5 million this weekend, $55 million over five weeks.

"Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay," Warner Bros., $1.8 million this weekend, $33.9 million over four weeks.

"The Forbidden Kingdom," Lionsgate, $1 million this weekend, $50.3 million over five weeks.

"The Visitor," Overture, $687,000 this weekend, $3.4 million over seven weeks.

The box office analysis comes from the Encino-based Media By Numbers firm.

May 18, 2008


Richard Todd Davis, CEO of LifeLock Inc., was so confident in his company's ability to protect his identity that he publicly revealed his Social Security number: 457-55-5462.

But according to a new class-action lawsuit filed last week, LifeLock's identity theft protection services were so inept that Davis' personal information was stolen... repeatedly.

"While LifeLock has only publicly acknowledged that Davis' identity was compromised on one occasion, there are more than 20 driver's licenses that have been fraudulently obtained [using his personal information]," the suit states.

"Furthermore, a simple background check performed using Davis' Social Security number reveals that his entire personal profile has been compromised to the extent that the birth date associated with his Social Security number is Nov. 2, 1940, which would [inaccurately] make Davis 67 years old."

The lawsuit maintains that LifeLock, which claims on its Web site to be "the industry leader in the rapidly growing field of Identity Theft Protection," made false and misleading claims in its multimillion-dollar ad campaign about the level of protection it provides.

"Through its advertisements, LifeLock misrepresents and assures consumers that it can protect against all types of fraud including, without limitation, computer hacking, password theft and other noncredit-related theft," the suit reads.

But LifeLock doesn't protect against many forms of identity theft, according to the lawsuit.

The company does place and renew fraud alerts on its subscribers' credit profiles. But it does nothing to combat breaches involving personal bank, employment or medical information, as well as theft pertaining to government documents and benefits, the suit alleges.

"LifeLock knows, yet fails to disclose, that the services it provides do not offer the breadth of protection that it promotes through its massive advertising campaign," the suit states.

Kevin Gerhold was attracted by LifeLock's $1 million guarantee against any damages resulting from breaches that occur under the company's watch.

But even that is misleading, according to Charleston attorney David Grubb.

"In actuality, once you get beyond the numerous legal limitations and disclaimers, the policy really only guarantees that LifeLock will investigate how to fix its failure," Grubb said in a news release. "The subscriber receives no monetary recompense and no guarantee that their reputation and credit status will be restored."

According to the suit, the company has almost 1 million subscribers who pay roughly $110 a year for LifeLock's protection. (that's $110,000,000 a year for doing just about nothing folks)

"This is a service that you pay for and it kind of lays dormant," said David Paris, an attorney with the New Jersey firm Marks & Klein who is heading the case against LifeLock. "So no one knows that they're not getting what they paid for, because they don't know what to look for."

Paris said that consumers can activate for free the same safeguards that LifeLock does, but the company fails to mention that in its marketing campaign.

The suit alleges that LifeLock's services can actually harm its clients because the constant placement of fraud alerts can prevent them from getting a home loan or refinancing their existing loans.

In addition, the company fails to reveal that it obtains its credit reports by requesting on its clients' behalf their free annual credit report. That means consumers can't ask for their own free report for at least 12 months, according to the suit.

The suit also traces what it calls the "nefarious origin" of the company, including the background of Robert J. Maynard Jr., who co-founded the company with Davis in 2005.

"Upon information and belief, Maynard developed the idea for LifeLock while sitting in a jail cell after having been arrested for failure to repay a $16,000 casino marker taken out at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas," the suit states. So we welched on a bet?

Maynard was sanctioned by the Federal Trade Commission because of misleading infomercials for National Credit Foundation, a separate credit-improvement company, according to the suit.

The suit also maintains that Maynard stole his father's identity by using his information to get an American Express card, which he used to rack up more than $100,000 of debt.

Paris said he plans to file another suit in a fourth state soon, and he is still gathering information about LifeLock's practices.

"In Wisconsin, a woman's debit card was stolen, and that thief used that card to sign up for LifeLock," he said. "If you can't provide the basic information to verify someone for subscription purposes, how can you be relied upon to protect people's identities?"

Speaking of stolen thanks for the cutn'paste (link)


"We have been in this business a long time. With our experience, we're gonna have ideas for change combinations that probably haven't occurred to you. If you have a fifty-dollar bill, we can give you fifty singles. We can give you forty-nine singles and ten dimes. We can give you twenty-five twos. Come talk to us. We are not going to give you change that you don't want. If you come to us with a hundred-dollar bill, we're not going to give you two-thousand nickels..- unless that meets your particular change needs. We will give you.. the change.. equal to.. the amount of money.. that you want change for!"

Bad Guys

May 17, 2008

Ted isn't yet dead

Teddy Kennedy is either having or has had a stroke or a seizure, or has run out of Scotch.

Best headline I've read on the story, "Ted Kennedy swam to safety once in his life, but his current stroke isn't looking so good."

I'll keep you updated.